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Mack Royal (Author of Fourteen Years on Fnord-L)
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Casa Rossa. Spirit Of House Music Volume Move to the Drums, Vol. I confined myself to adding an extra floor. We know from earlier books right back to "The Atrocity Archives" that the Laundryverse is a multiverse, with parallel universes where history has taken some rather odd turns. The Host belong to another subspecies of gracile hominin, genus homo , and are about as closely related to us as we are to H. The big difference in their history—the point of divergence—occured about ,, years ago: the point mutation that caused the H. Sapiens version of the FOXP2 gene to diverge from chimps and other hominids occurred much later in elves.
FOXP2 is expressed as a transcription factor that permits the development of spoken language. Neanderthals shared our mutant version: we've had the capability for language a modified hyoid bone and larynx for somewhere between a quarter and a million years. The ancestors of the elves didn't get it until much more recently. Gracile hominids are individually vulnerable, but are social animals with a rich repertoire of learned behaviour.
Language facilitates horizontal transfer of knowledge; a mute hominid species would be under intense selection pressure for stronger theory of mind and enhanced cognition so that they can survive despite lacking rich semantic communication. Consider the implications of this restriction in a setting where what you think can have external physical effects—the ritual magic path in the Laundry universe.
It imposes a selection pressure for general intelligence. The baseline of general intelligence among elves is higher than among H. Sapiens because the dumb ones weren't able to borrow ideas from their intelligent peers, and were vulnerable to predation. Elves are hunters—they tend to have slightly larger brains and a high energy metabolism, and although they're not obligate carnivores their ancestors used their strong theory of mind to enhance their abilities as ambush hunters.
- Flyboy Action Figure Comes With Gasmask.
- American Road: The poems.
- Payback Call (The Blackpool Novels).
- You are here.
- fnord | MetaFilter?
- Fourteen Years on Fnord-L.
- Metasploit: The Penetration Testers Guide.
That's where the big eyes and the pointy ears come in. When the ancestors of elves acquired language, then rapidly wiped out every rival hominin subspecies on their world. The normal form of social control among elven societies is the geas or magical compulsion, in which the strongest or highest-status individual imposes their will directly on those lower down the feudal pile. On the diplomatic level, they tend to be aggressive and warlike. One side-effect of building a civilization on geases is that you go direct from the divine right of kings to fascism as your culture acquires complexity and attempts to address the drawbacks of a social order that produces critical single points of failure.
Another is that any technology you get is based on direct mental manipulation of the world around you. Elves understand the laws of thermodynamics and metallurgy, but would never dream of building a jet engine: they'd grow a hollow ceramic tube and use a gate to a universe with different physical laws to heat the air moving through it.
This has regrettable consequences in the universe of the Laundry Files. Notably, the elven civilization attracts the attention of the Elder Gods somewhat sooner than low-magic-use human civilizations. By the time we meet All-Highest, the Host have been in hibernation in their redoubt for some centuries, cowering under the rubble of their shattered world. The shadow roads connect a manifold of different universes with different physical laws and histories: they are largely time-independent.
Fourteen Years on Fnord-L
Agent First is anomalous in having some capacity for empathy. Among H. Alfarensis the prevalence of empathic capacity mirrors this. Of course, empathy is often an asset for a spy. The world the elves are invading from is probably not where they originally evolved. They're aggressive and invasive, after all. They expand via percolation between worlds, but this leaves huge gaps in their coverage.
They're also lazy enough that they'll take an unoccupied or defenseless parallel earth in preference to one with existing hominid "vermin" who need hunting down or enslaving, and there's an infinity of worlds out there, so the previous scouts who found the way to our world reported a no wealth worth stealing and b an annoying prevalence of orcs who have developed cold iron weaponry which interferes with elven magic.
It was about as attractive a prospect for invasion as contemporary Afghanistan. But now there's a lot of infrastructure even if it's incredibly ugly, noisy, dangerous and annoying , lots of orcs to enslave, the moon's still intact, and the background magical "noise" makes it stand out like a sore thumb. Note also Stephen Pinker's argument that human civilization progresses and internicine violence decreases because we're domesticating ourselves —intractably violent members of human societies are weeded out and don't pass on their genes.
This process accelerated with agricultural settlement and cities representing order-of-magnitude increases in population density, hence opportunities for friction to result in violence. The Alfar are intelligent but non-domesticated. In a society organized by direct mental coercion, but based on an intrinsically undomesticated and potentially violent species, empathy is a dangerous character failing.
So it's not too far off the mark to say that in the Laundry universe, elves are nazis with pointy ears. Spoiler for the record : The Laundryverse and the Merchant Princes multiverse do not coexist in the same fictional universe. Who do you think I am, the elderly Robert A.
I brainstormed the British military response to the Host with various ex-military people I know. Apologies to anyone who spotted any of the numerous holes in how it plays out! To turn one of Clarke's laws upside down, any sufficiently advanced magic is indistinguishable from technology. The Alfar host is the remnant of an advanced mobile combined-arms force and has doctrine and tactics adapted to fight other highly mobile, energy-intensive thaumaturgic threats. They're utterly unequipped to go up against tanks and jet fighters Many thanks to ex-RAF Squadron Leader Simon Bradshaw for discussing the pros and cons of a QRA intercept of weaponized dragons, and explaining why heat-seeking missiles and air combat radar might be less than useful against them.
I had to rig the dice a little to provide a plausible conflict: too little magic and the Alfar host could have been arrested by the West Yorkshire Metropoltican Police, too much and it's game over already. To some extent it's an idiot plot insofar as All-Highest fails because he purged most of his intelligence section prior to the invasion and handed executive control to a proponent of air cavalry: but the cognitive biases of the Alfar preclude understanding how control structures in an H.